Chennai: Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami may have mentor Jayalalithaa’s memorial decked up with flowers once again on Monday morning for the formal announcement of the merger with rival faction led by O. Panneerselvam, his predecessor at Fort St.George.
The merger was to happen late Friday and the CM got his staff to decorate Amma’s memorial at the Marina with lovely flowers but the expectant smiles faded into the descending night while the enthusiastic AIADMK loyalists melted away from the beach.
“The merger will certainly happen Monday morning, at around 10.30. You can be sure of that”, said a senior member of the ruling AIADMK (Amma).
When cross-checking with a source in the rival Puratchi Thalaivi Amma camp of OPS, it was revealed that as per the merger package still evolving, Edappadi will continue to be the Chief Minister and O. Panneerselvam has agreed to be the Deputy CM.
However, his responses were not as sharp and fast when the jabs were directed at him, when he “almost helplessly looked on with that smile on his sad face”, said an eyewitness, requesting anonymity.
“There was much rancour there last night. It was a sad sight, OPS sat and watched patiently”, said another eyewitness. “One former minister (name withheld on request) threatened OPS saying he and some others would rather stay away to keep their dignity and self-respect should he go ahead and sign the shameful merger pact without getting the due share of representation for his faction in the government and the party hierarchy post-merger”, said the source, adding that this 'threat' appeared to “somewhat unsettle OPS”.
It has been common knowledge now that the OPS faction is itself divided between the pro-merger and anti-merger groups. Former minister Mafoi Pandiarajan is a prominent face in the former group and has been actively involved in the talks with EPS camp, as well as 'the Delhi emissaries'. While almost the entire OPS camp is for merger, only four or five 'leaders' have been stoutly opposing it.
A party senior rued that the midget anti-merger group appeared keener pursuing personal agendas rather than the larger interests of the party, the government and the state. “One of them even lambasted Mafoi at that stormy Friday session saying that he was a black sheep among the Amma loyalists. It was hard on Mafoi as the man had toiled hard for the merger in the interests of the party and the state”, said an eyewitness, requesting anonymity.
While OPS was thus weathering an ugly storm in his house through a good part of Friday night, CM Edappadi waited with senior cabinet colleagues at his residence a short distance away on Greenways Road. His staff had decorated the Amma memorial at the Marina with flowers and kept the cops ready to control the crowds when he would drive in with OPS for seeking Amma's blessings for the merger. It was expected that the two leaders would thereafter drive to the AIADMK headquarters ten minutes away to address a joint press conference and announce merger.
With the session at OPS' house turning not only stormy but foul with some of the seniors pointing fingers at some others in the hall, the CM finally got word from there around 10 pm saying, “We will get back to you tomorrow”. After this, the CM told his ministers to go home and catch some sleep....